Blogging has fallen down my priority list. My mind will be wandering away and I’ll think: “A blog post!” and then the day, the week, the month gets away from me. And, as always happens when I take a hiatus from this blog, I get intimidated by the idea that there is so much to catch up on. So I won’t even try — I’ll just dive in. But first, a quick recap of the past few months:
I started a new job. You know that. It’s quite consuming (thus the lack of blogging) but in a very, very good way. I’ll have lots more to say about that.
I went to New York for work and to Reunions at the end of May. A wonderful trip — sometimes I can’t believe that I don’t actually live in NYC anymore. Aidan mentioned a highlight of my trip here; Lindsey captured the experience of Reunions here and here. (See? I don’t even have to blog — I can just let other people do it for me.) One thing I will mention, however, is that going to a college reunion in the Facebook age is a phenomenon. There is so much small talk and catching up that has already been done, pictures of children that have already been seen, small musings observed. So you can dive right into the fun stuff, the more meaty subjects, the real conversations. Of course, there was also dancing on the stage (ok, attempting to dance on the stage — I got kicked off numerous times by security) to an 80s band, lingering slightly hungover breakfasts, and the long, hot wait along the sidelines of the P-rade, sweating in the inevitable NJ humidity. But I was touched and moved by how nice everyone is at age 37 (or thereabouts). Everybody seems much more comfortable in their own skin and lives. No one seemed to be trying to impress. We were just all there, wrangling kids or enjoying freedom from them; keeping tabs on significant others or, indeed, enjoying freedom from them.
I broke my toe. This is the third time I’ve broken a toe, so I knew right when it happened what had happened. I was in the bathroom with both kids — E was on the potty and I believe O was rushing towards it and I was chasing him and then “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu…..!!!” I taught my children a new word that morning. The last time I broke my toe was 10 years ago, right before my 5th reunion and right before I was a bridesmaid in a close friend’s wedding. I hobbled about both occasions. Of more concern to me at the time, however, was my yoga obsession. I had broken my big toe, in fact, jumping back into chattarunga. I was practicing yoga daily, if not twice a day. In my yoga-influenced philosophy, I saw the break as a sign that I was too intense. I needed to slow down, to go back to the fundamentals of my practice. This time, I can’t really slow down — I have kids to chase, meetings to get across town to. I had just been getting back into running, too — I’m supposed to run a 10K this weekend. What is the universe telling me now? Um, I’m not sure this time. Not to slow down, but perhaps to be flexible? Adaptable? Maybe nothing. Maybe it just hurts and it sucks. But also, perhaps, to not look at running as a chore (as I kind of had been) but to enjoy my ability to walk and to move with ease (when it finally returns).
OK, that’s all for now. More soon, I promise! Thank you, Aidan, for calling me out today and reminding me why I do this — the connections that come both from friends who like to keep tabs on me and the virtual friends who share this same experience of expressing oneself into the vast unknown of the ether.
And now, a few gratuitous pictures:
Tags: iPhone addiction
My iPhone was lost. Little O had been playing with it in the morning, holding it to his ear and waddling around going, “Hi! Hi!”. I remember he handed it back to me. And then I remember going into Little Buggy’s room to get her dressed for school. Had I brought the phone in to her room with me? I didn’t remember doing so. But I needed to find it quickly because I had a big day planned: I would drop Buggy at school and head to the Wrentham Outlets, then I would drive to Wellesley to meet a friend for lunch. Little O must have turned off the ringer flip on the side when he was chewing on it, so calling it from the landline didn’t help. I tossed my room (stripped the bed, emptied the hamper, crawled around the floor). I tossed O’s room. I tossed Little Bug’s room, shaking out the blankets on her bed as well. No iPhone.
How could I drive to Wrentham or Wellesley without my GPS? Without my email? Without texting? Ridiculously addicted to the iPhone, I decided to forgo the big adventure. I told myself it was because I was too nervous that our nanny or the school couldn’t get in touch with me in an emergency (which is of course absurd because they could have called Tim or one of the other half-dozen contacts on our emergency call sheet…) I walked around the rest of the day feeling a bit unsettled. What if someone important were trying to call me (no one has my landline number anymore)?
Tim got home that night after the children were asleep. We searched our room some more, quietly searched the children’s room. Then, being a true Apple Geek, he downloaded onto my iPad an app called “Find My iPhone” which, if you have MobileMe (and, if you don’t, let my story be a strong encouragement to purchase it immediately!), will somehow make your phone ring even if the ringer is off! After downloading the app, I heard a faint ringing from upstairs. Good, at least it was in the house. I sourced it to Little Bug’s room. It seemed to be coming from her bed. That was strange: she was asleep in her bed, and anyway I had unmade it and remade it earlier in my frantic hunt. Rolling her over, I saw the faint glow from under her fitted sheet. Under her fitted sheet — there was no way that the phone could have “accidentally” gotten there.
The next morning, while we made up her bed I said, “Remember how Mommy was looking for her phone yesterday?” “Yes.” “Do you know where I found it?” “Where?” “Under your sheet?” “Oh, yeah!” “Did you put it there?”
“Yes, I wanted to see if I could feel a lump.”
Oh, my fairy tale-loving daughter, to whom we have been reading “The Princess and the Pea” for several weeks. I didn’t even try to choke back my laughter.
“Don’t do that again, OK?” I said, tears streaming out of my eyes.
Tags: leaving Big Law
Tomorrow is my last day at the firm. Yes, it has been a few weeks since I posted — and, obviously, I’ve been busy. I decided to pursue what I hope will be a truly life-fulfilling path — the one I almost decided to follow after my maternity leave. I do not regret returning to my firm, though. Not one bit. I leave knowing I have left nothing on the table. I leave having been re-immersed in tax law and hard work. I leave having reestablished my professional and personal connections here.
I’ll write more about my new opportunity soon — next week, in my week off between jobs. Right now, however, I’m sending almost three years of files to records, having good-bye coffees and lunches with the colleagues who have become my friends. And I’m surprisingly emotional. Change makes me anxious, even good change. I am not sorry I’m leaving all this behind. But what is “all this”?: A huge, multinational law firm in a gleaming high rise. A nod of recognition when I tell people where I work. The confidence that came with knowing that, after years of professional hopscotch, I actually was capable of landing a prestigious job. (“Prestigious” — I feel the need to surround that in quotes, recognizing all of the external validation implied by my last few sentences. But it’s true! I’ll admit it! I’m proud that I work(ed) here.)
No, I’m not sorry to be leaving on my own terms in an anxiety-producing economy. But I’m still nostalgic about the milestones. I came here with one baby, I leave with two. At times I felt like I did a good job. Mostly, I felt rather stressed, but that, too, is part of the fun of being a BigLaw attorney — you can sit around and kvetch with your other lawyer friends about how stressed you are. Highlighters and sticky tabs and blackberrys and binder clips; empty Starbucks cups, free dinners after 7, free cab rides after 8; the same turkey wraps at every department lunch. Getting into my car with NPR and a mug of coffee and seeing my skyscraper in the distance as I headed for the highway, wondering what would happen today. Seeing the clock tick towards 5 and wondering if I’d be able to leave in time for bathtime.
Oh, I have so much more to write about this experience and the one that lies ahead. But right now I’m strangely overwhelmed. I ache to talk to my father, to compare my corporate law experience to his, to dissect it in a detail that only another corporate lawyer would want to listen to.
Tonight, some law school classmates who work here are buying me a glass of wine; tomorrow I’ll have a farewell lunch with some friends in my department. Saying goodbye can be strange and awkward, but I hope and trust that my new job will be a bridge to maintaining these connections. It still doesn’t feel real — seven years ago, almost on a whim, I decided to take the LSAT and take control of my life. Without this experience I don’t know that I’d have the confidence to maintain that control and take the leap I’m taking now – out of BigLaw towards a big unknown. I’m nervous and nostalgic, but also grateful and proud.
Tim and I escaped to Woodstock, Vermont this past weekend. We stayed at the Blue Horse Inn, which is right in town. It is a lovely bed and breakfast, very tastefully decorated, with comfortable beds and truly the best B&B breakfast I have ever had (cream scones, french toast with maple whipped cream, shired eggs, french press coffee…). The weather was rainy and not really suited for outdoor activities (well, not to city-slickers like us who were loathe to ski or snowshoe in the rain), so there was a lot of eating, wine, dozing, and reading. On Friday night I went to bed at 9 p.m. and woke up at 8:30 a.m. the next morning. On Saturday, after a huge breakfast and an easy run through the hilly, picturesque town (over a few covered bridges, even!), we drove about 20 minutes to Hanover, N.H. and wandered around. On Sunday, like the good yuppies we are, we stopped at Simon Pearce on our way home. That’s really all we did.
Little Bug was apparently mad at us for going away with out her, so refused to speak to us on the phone all weekend. My mother let her do things like put on her bathing suit and swim in the bathtub (pretending that she was on vacation), so I think she had fun nonetheless. Little O loved spending time with his grandparents, but when we walked in the door started to babble and “talk” excitedly — I think he was very happy to see us return.
Tags: depression, depression in law students, depression in lawyers
I’m so grateful for everyone who left comments or sent emails — from family members and friends to readers I have not even met — after my last post. I felt nervous about writing about feeling depressed, but even after simply sending the post out into the ether I felt a bit better. I had sorted out my thoughts somewhat, and now at least someone (“Someone” with a capital “S”) knew how I felt.
Interestingly (though perhaps not a total coincidence), I am working on a freelance magazine article about depression in law students. Many of the sources I interviewed have repeated that one of the most debilitating aspects of depression is feeling that you are alone. They have told me that, especially for lawyers (arguably competitive by nature), admitting depression is like an admission of failure. One person told me he hopes that eventually people’s discomfort with discussing depression and the even more taboo topic of suicide will turn to rallies of support, as happened for cancer (indeed, cancer used to be the “c-word,” right? Whispered in hushed tones as if someone’s cancer were his or her own fault…). Let’s do three-day walks and bike rides and wear ribbons in support of depression.
So, anyway, thank you for reaching out. For telling me your own stories. For letting me know you’re there for me. For suggesting ways to approach both rationally and indulgently (thank you, Pam, for the mani-pedi/Pinot suggestion!) the very real emotions I’m feeling.
At the very least, I know that I’m not alone. That knowledge enables me to sit with this and trust that the roller coaster will go back up.
Sometimes, the most mundane of tasks – walking down the hall to make a photocopy, checking a voicemail, even going to the restroom – are impossible. I sit glued to my chair, frantically flipping through web pages looking for a solution, frenetically refreshing my Gmail in the hopes that an email from someone, somewhere, will pop up to save me. I am heavy and limp and tired. I do not want to eat, nor do I want to talk to anyone, especially a colleague who, for whatever reason (mostly imagined), might make me feel worse about myself than I already do.
Depression is the rocks in the pocket of your raincoat, weighing you down, tempting you to dip your toe in the ocean, perhaps walking out further. There are no solutions because you are trapped. Well-meaning suggestions are futile. In the past, I have literally leapt out over this wall: moving to the mountains, ending a relationship, changing jobs (again). The first two are no longer feasible, so of course I am currently fixated on the third.
But, now, I am older and wiser, and despite my outward protestations, I do know that the job is an easy excuse. It’s an immediate target for all of the usual self-doubt, blame, and uncertainty that seem to bubble up from time to time: I’m not smart enough, dedicated enough, focused enough. (Enough, enough, enough… it’s never enough.) It is also all too easy to let the mommy wars suck me in: why am I paying someone else (a great deal of money) to take care of my children? Why can’t my 3-year-old read (if I were home, sounding out letters with her, she would be reading, right)? How can I live with the fact that I see my sweet baby boy but one waking hour of each work day?
Why am I not happy? Why am I not satisfied with what I do have – which is so much? Why am I so negative? And, thus, the spiral of self-hatred begins.
For 30 years – since I was old enough to realize that life can bring prolonged periods when nothing seems to go right – I have been visualizing a roller coaster. A metaphor of life’s sines and cosines. I picture a car inching up a rickety incline, and I tell myself to hold on, even though I know that once I’m back on top, at some point in the near or distant future there will be another drop. It’s physics and calculus – unassailable, hard science. I have difficulty waiting out the troughs, of course. I want to jump start my life. This time, however, I just have to trust that things will get better. Not that they will change, necessarily, but that they will get better.
My internet wanderings recently led me to this post about Bhakti, or self-love. “This is me,” I thought. And I’ve been trying, I really have, to stifle the constant self-hate of whatever chemical, seasonal, external, situational trough in which I find myself as of late. But to turn on some mythical switch and love oneself? I find this almost impossible to comprehend. So I just have to trust.
When I dropped off Little Bug at preschool this morning, her teacher came rushing up to me to inform me about circle time yesterday. It is “community helpers” week at school, and at circle time, the children stood up and talked about community helpers they knew. William’s dad is a firefighter; Mary Kate’s mom is a nurse; Emerson’s mom is a doctor; and so on. Apparently, when it was Buggy’s turn she jumped up and said, “My mommy is a FANTASTIC LAWYER!”
Let’s not get all semantic about whether or not I actually qualify as a “community helper.” Anyone who talks to me regularly knows that I am feeling low, low, low about my job as of late (mostly my ability to do it well and what the hell am I doing with my life). Sometimes, a boost of confidence can come from the unlikeliest of sources — such as one’s three-year-old.
Of course, I too am the daughter of a FANTASTIC LAWYER. So it is no small thrill that my daughter gave me a circle time shout out.
Tags: Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, preschool report cards
Little Buggy got her first preschool report card. She was evaluated in areas such as gross motor development (“catches a large ball” or “claps and stomps to a rhythm”), fine motor development (“holds crayon with thumb and fingers”), self help skills (“cleans up own spills”), cognitive development (“is able to sit during whole group time” or “recognizes written name”), language development (“uses I, you, me, he, and she correctly”), and social/emotional development (“initiates activity during play,” “shares,” and, my favorite, “tolerates reasonable delays”). She received a “P” (for proficient!) in all areas except for “uses scissors” (“needs a little help with form,” her teacher wrote) and “puts on jacket, hat, mittens, and shoes.” Apparently she “has a little trouble with the second mitten.”
I find the whole concept of a three-year-old report card incredibly cute. Of course there is value in understanding your child’s age-appropriate development. I suppose there are children who would not get a “P” in “is able to sit during whole group time.” I would also be concerned if my child were having trouble “Pointing to and naming basic colors.” Certainly, I would work on that.
I shared her report card with our nanny, a former pre-school Montessori teacher who went all Amy Chua.* “She puts on both her mittens at home,” she huffed. (And, indeed, just that morning our nanny had told me how good Buggy was getting at getting herself dressed for snow play — a big endeavor when you are 3, what with all the snowpants and boots and mittens.) And then she said she would go out and buy children’s scissors today. “I noticed that you don’t have any,” she said, rather accusingly.
Ah, well. So it begins.
*Speaking of which, I just finished Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. I really like Amy Chua after reading the entire story. I think she got a very bad rap in the press coverage by people who did not actually read the book. Or, if people did read the book, those people have no sense of humor. She is bitingly funny, self-deprecating, and a sharp observer. Obviously the Wall Street Journal excerpt was carefully selected and edited to sell books. And obviously it worked. But the entirely of the story is a unique entry into the field of parenting tomes. It is a quick, light read, and I enjoyed it immensely. Part of me thinks she is insane in the way that all super-over achievers are insane. But her love for her daughters is at the heart of the book and, in the end, that is what resonates.
Tags: law firm stress, making a mistake at work
I made a mistake at work last week. Not a proofing error, but a process error. A mistake in judgment. I didn’t do anything illegal, nor did I lose the client any money, and it was ultimately corrected. I have spoken with both the senior associate and the partner involved, owned up to my error, and assured them it would be a profound learning experience. The associate told me, “No harm, no foul.”
Nevertheless, I have been in a deep, deep funk since then. I dread being in the office, and my stomach is in knots when I’m there. I literally cannot eat. I feel as if I let down two people whose opinions I value, with whom I want to continue working. I know, I know: what matters is how I handle the mistake, what I learn from it, that I pick myself up. Outwardly, I’m trying to do that. Inwardly, however, I’m still cringing. I want to hide under my desk. Better yet, I want to stay in bed.
Friends have helpfully shared their work blunders: sending a prospective off to the printers with an error, disclosing too much information in a negotiation. My law school friends have, as usual, been particularly supportive. One told me of a tongue-lashing she was given by the general counsel of a Fortune 500 company. Another of sending documents to the wrong client. The most helpful piece of wisdom was provided by my friend Jill, who pointed me to this blog post. I have been trying to figure out why I remain so depressed, and this piece distills it perfectly. For inherent pleasers, such as I am, law school is awesome. You learn things, you are tested on them, and then you are given feedback in the form of a letter grade. If you do well in law school, as I did, these grades are the signs of approval that we pleaser-types so crave. In a law firm, you may be given feedback twice a year in your review. Otherwise, you spend your long days fielding assignments and completing them with absolutely no idea if you are doing the right thing or, more important for someone like me, doing a good job. I realized that I have spent the majority of my days at the firm feeling like I am on the brink of disaster — that I’m about to screw something up. In some very small way, it was a relief that I finally did make a major mistake, one that I and the people I work for had to acknowledge.
Dear readers, I do not write this for praise — I swear! But just to articulate the anxiety that perhaps so many of us are afraid to voice. As my friend Monique wrote me, “My fellow associates at work rarely admit to being anything less than perfect, so I often feel very alone, and very much like I missed the day in law school when they dipped students in the golden patina of accuracy and imperviousness.”
What is the most difficult thing for me is that I disappointed someone I respect and generally enjoy working for. Most likely, this partner has made mistakes and hopefully will give me a second chance. But what just gnaws at me is that I won’t get that chance and that, really, I’m not very good at what I do (which snowballs into all the reasons why not: I’m not detail oriented? I have no attention span? I rush things so that I can get home to my children?)
I don’t know how to get out of this funk. I did go to the office gym for the first time since I joined almost four weeks ago and ran the fastest three miles I have in months (which admittedly isn’t saying much). Has this happened to you? Were you depressed? How did you get your groove back?